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How UK science shines because of the EU

For every pound that the UK contributes to the European Union science fund, it gets back £1.40. Why? Because the European Union invests into science projects “on the basis of scientific excellence”. And British scientists are among the best in the world.

As Michael Brooks pointed out in his weekly science column for the New Statesman:

“It’s not jingoistic to say that Britain is a scientific powerhouse. These shores produce 16 per cent of the world’s highest-quality research yet they host just 1 per cent of the world’s population.”

One reason that the UK is so good at science these days is because its scientists are able to collaborate with the best in the world – many of whom are working in other EU countries.

“If we leave Europe because of the referendum,” commented Dr Brooks, “Britain stands to lose more than just money”

“Collaboration will become a problem. Our scientists would be left isolated, without influence or funding,” added Dr Brooks, who has a PHD in quantum physics.

Featured in his article are details of how a ‘wonder material’ called graphene was discovered in Britain. The material has amazing properties: almost unparalleled electrical conductivity; ten times stronger than steel; flexible and super-thin (each sheet is just one atom thick), light and transparent.

These properties make graphene a potentially revolutionary material for electronics and mobile phone industries, among many others.

All that is on the horizon, but without EU collaboration, there would likely be no horizon for this material that, although amazing, still has many technical difficulties to surmount to make it useable.

Commented a new group, Scientists for EU:

“What the article neglects to say (doesn’t know?!) is that in Jan 2013, the EU pledged a colossal €1 billion for graphene research. So it’s not just that we need the networks, it’s also that the Commission is making some very bold investment decisions that put a lot of juice in the tank for new UK cutting-edge institutes in this area.”

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